ANC's outcry over letter deeply concerning - Madonsela

Cape Town - Public Protector Thuli Madonsela on Monday said she was deeply concerned by the ANC's response to her letter to President Jacob Zuma on Nkandla and viewed it as an attempt to undermine her office.

"The public protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, has noted with deep concern the extraordinary and unwarranted attacks on her person and office by the ANC, the office of its chief whip in Parliament, one of its alliance partners, and the leader of its women's league following the unfortunate leak and publishing of her confidential letter to President Jacob Zuma," her spokesperson Kgalalelo Masibi said.

"Her reading of the public statements and comments attributed to these parties is that there is an attempt to interfere with the functioning of her office in violation of Section 181(4) of the Constitution," she added in a statement.

Masibi said Madonsela asked that she be allowed to do her work without fear or favour.

She denied the ANC's suggestions that by writing to Zuma, the public protector was interfering with Parliament, where an ad hoc committee is being established to consider the president's response to investigations into state spending on his homestead in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.

Madonsela reportedly wrote to Zuma last week that he was second-guessing her recommendations that he should repay money spent on new features that were not related to security, such as a swimming pool, cattle kraal, amphitheatre, and visitors' centre.

In his 20-page submission to Parliament on 14 August on probes into the controversy, Zuma said he would leave it to Police Minister Nathi Nhleko to determine if he should repay any of the cost of the R246m project.

He made plain that he was neither commenting on Madonsela's report nor tacitly endorsing it.

On Monday, Madonsela's office reiterated that he had failed to respond adequately to her findings and suggested that had this not been the case, she would not have seen the need to write to him.

"In fact, in paragraph 7, the document in question specifically states that it is 'not a critique' of the public protector’s report and that it 'offers no comment' on the contents of the public protector’s report and that this was not reflective of the fact that the president was accepting the contents," Masibi said.

"The public protector has also been consistent in indicating that should the president have submitted a response or comments on her report as required by the said provisions of the Emea (Executive Members' Ethics Act), she would leave the evaluation of the adequacy of the response to Parliament."

Furious response

Madonsela's letter drew a furious response from the ruling party, with ANC Chief Whip Stone Sizani and ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa both suggesting she was overreaching her powers and failing to respect Parliament's role in the matter.

In turn, DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane on Monday condemned what he called Sizani's "malicious public attack" on Madonsela as an attempt to discredit her office and her findings.

"It is factually correct that the president has not to-date responded to the remedial action steps of the public protector.

"For this reason the letter of the public protector to the president cannot be said to interfere with the processes of Parliament, but has in fact aided and assisted the work of Parliament and its Nkandla ad hoc committee to hold the president to account.

He added: "It is clear that the ANC is currently drowning in a sea of accusations and findings against President Zuma, and it is clear that the ANC has now taken to preventing him from being held accountable, at all costs."

The ANC on Monday nominated senior parliamentary members to the ad hoc committee, including Cedric Frolick, ANC Deputy Chief Whip Doris Dlakude and the chairpersons of the justice and police portfolio committees, Mathole Motshekga and Francois Beukman.

Frolick is the legislature's House chairperson for oversight and committees and chaired the short-lived committee established to look into the controversy in the dying days of the fourth Parliament.

Under his leadership, it decided that it lacked time to deal with the matter before the May elections and deferred it to the next Parliament.

The DA has fielded Maimane and chairman of its federal executive James Selfe to serve on the committee.

Maimane has said the DA would use the first sitting of the committee to move that Madonsela be called before the committee and to submit a copy of her letter to Zuma.

It has also indicated it believes the president should appear before the committee to explain his position, but the ANC majority is expected to resist such a move.